The 1990's












U.S. Congress passes Americans with Disabilities Act

As with mandatory special education, Congress follows the lead of states like Washington in passing a disability anti-discrimination law with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  George H.W. Bush signs the ADA into law.  The signing culminates a nationwide advocacy effort of the disability community.

DRW protects independence by rejecting state funding

In late 1990, DRW notifies the state of its intent to give up all of its state funding at residential habilitation centers.  An earlier external review determined the terms under which DRW received the funding compromised its independence.  The state was unwilling to revise problematic terms to assure DRW's independence and as a consequence, DRW decided it would no longer accept this funding. 


Protection and Advocacy system created in state law

A bill is enacted creating the protection and advocacy system in state law (RCW 71A.10.080).  This law provides a means for the state to appropriate funding to supplement federal protection and advocacy system without compromising DRW’s independence. The state has not yet used this means to provide funding for DRW.

DRW launches "Envoy"

DRW launches a new communication tool entitled “ENVOY”.  It starts as a simple newsletter mailed to interested individuals and evolved into a sophisticated online disability rights related news source.  The first edition covers a major investigation into the plight of people with developmental disabilities at psychiatric hospitals – an investigation that would culminate in the filing of the Allen and Marr class action lawsuits years later.  See years 2000 and 2002 in this timeline.

Protection and Advocacy services expand to all people with disabilities

The Protection and Advocacy for Individuals Rights program, which was a demonstration project in 1989, is reauthorized as an additional program for protection and advocacy entities. It expands eligibility for protection and advocacy services to all people with disabilities as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Report on appropriations in state psychiatric hospitals

DRW’s ENVOY includes a report on an upcoming hearing on SB 6319 to express legislative intent that separate appropriations be made to support the care of people with developmental disabilities, brain injuries, AIDS, and dementia in the state psychiatric hospitals – the first legislative attempt to address the issues that would later be addressed in the Allen and Marr class action lawsuits.


'Handicap' changed to 'disability' in WLAD

The Washington Law Against Discrimination is amended to change the term ‘handicap’ to ‘disability’, in response to vigorous advocacy efforts.

Use of prone restraints linked to deaths

On the morning of July 15, Fircrest (a residential habilitation center in Seattle) staff placed John Mileck, a 45 year old resident, stomach-down on the floor in a prone position and held his legs, arms, torso and head while he struggled.  When Mileck was turned over approximately twenty-two minutes later, he was visibly blue.  Staff started CPR and called 911, but Mileck died at Harborview Hospital on July 19.  According to King County Medical Examiner, Dr. Donald Reay, “positional restraint is viewed as a major cause of Mileck’s death."  “Use of prone restraints linked to deaths”, ENVOY, December 1993. 

Wrongful death statutes discriminate

DRW testifies on a measure to amend the state’s wrongful death statutes.  DRW expresses a belief the current law disproportionately excludes people with disabilities from its protection.  According to attorney Michael McCarthy, author of the proposed amendments and a DRW (then WPAS) board member, the wrongful death statutes “effectively deny a civil remedy for the deaths of a large number of Washington’s citizens by excluding some actions based in part on what the deceased person was expected to earn.”  This was one of the first of many unsuccessful efforts over the next twenty years to address an injustice that still exists today.  “Wrongful death statutes discriminate”, ENVOY, December 1993.

Protection and Advocacy model developed for medically fragile infants

DRW completes work on a grant to develop a model system of providing protection and advocacy services to medically fragile infants and children with life-threatening medical conditions to ensure that these children receive the same level of care and treatment as medically fragile infants without disabilities. 


"Parent Pay" program declared unlawful

In response to a DRW lawsuit the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) agrees to stop collecting child support as part of a “parent pay” program from parents whose children with developmental disabilities living in foster care or group homes.  An estimated 600 parents will not be forced to pay child support, and many will receive refunds.  Among other things, DRW argues the Constitution’s equal protection clause was violated because parents of children in institutions were not required to pay child support.  “Parent Pay” program declared unlawful”, ENVOY, December 1994 – January 1995.

DRW successfully challenges DDD Service Need Level determination

DRW successfully challenges a Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) Need Level determination for a ten year old girl who is legally blind with a substantial hearing impairment.  When the custody arrangements for the little girl changed due to problems she was experiencing, DDD would not let the respite hours she had follow her to her new home.  Instead they reduced her respite hours.  An administrative law judge (ALJ) reversed that decision and restored the hours.  This decision was upheld despite an appeal by DDD.  “WPAS successfully challenges another DDD Service Need Level determination”, ENVOY, April 1994.

Gorton amendment killed, modified Jeffords amendment accepted

Special education advocates are relieved when U.S. House of Representative conferees working on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act refuses to recede to the Senate, killing an amendment by Washington’s Senator Slade Gorton that threatens the rights of students with disabilities.  The Gorton amendment would have given school administrators the authority to circumvent the “stay put” provision in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) if students brought weapons to school or exhibited “life-threatening behavior.”  The conferees narrow the definition of weapons to only guns and firearms, eliminate references to “life-threatening behavior” and reduce the maximum suspension from 90-45 days.  DRW plays an active role in educating Senator Gorton and other lawmakers of the potential impact of the Gorton amendment.  “Gorton amendment killed, modified Jeffords accepted”, ENVOY, October 1994.

DRW refutes state report portraying people with mental illness as violent

DRW refutes a report from the Department of Labor & Industries on the study of assaults on staff at state psychiatric hospitals.  While the purpose of the study was to examine methods to reduce workers compensation claims, the result was a one-sided report of questionable validity that contributes to the wrongful of stereotyping of people with mental illness.  The report brought an important issue to the forefront.  However, many were offended by its portrayal of staff as victims and patients as perpetrators, without any discussion of individual staff responsibility as professional health care workers towards a captive population in ill-health, or the responsibility of hospital administration to provide a therapeutic, patient-friendly setting in which patients can recuperate and staff can work productively.  “State report portrays people with mental illness as violent”, ENVOY, February 1994.

Project PAS-Port for Change founded

With guidance from United Cerebral Palsy, DRW convenes a group of people with disabilities from all over the state who use personal assistance services. Each person brings their life experience with personal assistance services to the discussion, what is going right and what is going wrong. A steering committee for 'Project PAS-Port for Change' (PAS-Port) is established and continues to meet on a regular basis.  Every year, PAS-Port members organize an annual Independent Living Day Rally in Olympia and advocate at the state and local level for improvements in the quality, reliability and availability of personal assistance services.  PAS-Port for Change Project Page.


DRW investigation leads to WSH employee dismissal

After DRW investigation, Western State Hospital (WSH) security attendant is dismissed for sexually harassing four female patients.  “WPAS investigation leads to WSH employee dismissal”, ENVOY, October/November 1995.

Inception of Mental Health Advance Directives

DRW begins an education effort it continues to this day to explain a revolutionary legal tool that gives consumers of mental health services the opportunity to plan in advance for treatment they may receive when unable to make informed choices – psychiatric advance directives.  “Providing in advance for treatment choices with Psychiatric Advance Directives”, ENVOY, August/September 1995.

Successful fight against discrimination on the basis of mental health treatment

After year-long negotiations, DRW and other advocates persuade the Department of Health to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by eliminating discriminatory questions on their applications regarding mental health counselors and other licensed health care providers who have been treated for mental illness.  “WPAS fights discrimination on the basis of mental health treatment”, ENVOY, December 1995/January 1996.

Vision of Personal Assistance Services defined

Project PAS-Port for Change, a person directed initiative originally organized by United Cerebral Palsy and supported by DRW, defines their vision for personal assistance services in an eleven point statement.  “Vision of Personal Assistance Services in the Year 2001”, ENVOY, December 1995/January 1996.

Prone restraints banned

Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) Director Norm Davis signs Policy 5.15 banning the use of prone restraint in institutions, facilities, and programs staffed or contracted by DDD.  DRW participates in the advocacy effort which includes an open letter to Norm Davis calling for the ban. 


DRW fights barriers to accessibility

DRW uses a Title III of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim to eliminate an architectural barrier a woman with a disability faced because she was not strong enough to open the door of her bank.  Eventually, the bank’s landlord agrees the tension in the door could be adjusted to meet the ADA’s accessibility requirements.  “WPAS continues to fight barriers to accessibility”, ENVOY, February/March 1996.

Western State Hospital charged with abuse and neglect of patient with Alzheimer's

DRW and the family of Gordon Enbusk, a retired dairy farmer and World War II veteran, file a wrongful death lawsuit against Western State Hospital.  The lawsuit charges Enbusk was abused and neglected during a 34-day stay at the hospital culminating in his death. The case receives widespread media coverage which results in public outrage.  Eventually, mediation occurs and a settlement is reached.  “Western State Hospital charged with abuse and neglect of Alzheimer’s patient”, ENVOY, October/November 1996.

Mental health parity campaign begins

DRW begins educating the disability community and the public on the need for mental health parity in health insurance coverage.  It begins with coverage of an ultimately unsuccessful bipartisan amendment to the Health Insurance Reform Act of 1996 by Senators Domenici and Wellstone that passed the Senate but was not enacted at the time.  “Advocates must fight for parity in mental health coverage”, ENVOY, April/May 1996.

F.D.R. memorial corrected

DRW joins the successful effort to change the plans for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial in order to include a depiction of him in a wheelchair which he used most of his adult life but hid from the public.  “F.D.R. memorial may commemorate ignorance”, ENVOY, June/July 1996.

Information Dissemination Project completes successful term

DRW’s Information Dissemination Project, funded by the Developmental Disabilities Council comes to an end.  The project increases awareness, knowledge and sensitivity of Washington residents, including those in culturally diverse communities, to the rights and needs of people with developmental disabilities.  The project featured four contests that challenged people to create art, photographs, symbols and articles celebrating the full inclusion of all people in society.  $4,000 in prizes are awarded.  “Information Dissemination Project completes a successful term”, ENVOY, October/November 1996.

DRW wins access to RHC's sought in lawsuit

DRW secures the access to state residential habilitation centers (RHCs) sought in a lawsuit filed in federal court.  The October 16 agreement grants access to Fircrest, Frances Haddon Morgan, Lakeland Village, Rainier and Yakima Valley RHCs. Under terms of the agreement, the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) also agrees to develop an access agreement covering DRW access to community-based residential programs and facilities.  "WPAS wins access to RHC's sought in lawsuit." Envoy October/November 1996.


Protection and Advocacy expands to focus on assistive technology

A protection and advocacy program started in 1993 and focusing on assistive technology becomes permanent with the enactment and funding of the Protection and Advocacy Assistive Technology Act.  While previous protection and advocacy programs were organized by type of disability, this is the first protection and advocacy program enacted to focus on a particular issue.


DRW files Allen class action lawsuit to enforce rights of people with developmental disabilities at WSH

On January 12, 1999, after 18 months of intensive advocacy by DRW staff with unsatisfactory outcomes, DRW files suit against the State seeking class certification on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities for lack of care and treatment they received as patients in Western State Hospital (WSH), a State psychiatric facility.  The complaints giving rise to the lawsuit concern patients with developmental disabilities not receiving adequate protection from harm; adequate habilitation treatment; adequate behavioral support; and adequate discharge planning and placement.  According to Mark Stroh, DRW Executive Director, "The decision to file a lawsuit against the state is not made lightly nor without significant efforts to resolve conditions without litigation. Nevertheless, litigation is an effective means of bringing uncooperative state agencies together to focus on a long-standing problem and implement a legally binding solution to that problem." Follow this lawsuit which became known as Allen v Western State Hospital, in year 2000 of the timeline.  "WPAS advocacy at Western State Hospital", ENVOY Spring 1999.

Self-directed care bill passes legislature

A "Self-directed care" bill passes the legislature after testimony of DRW and others in the disability community.  The Nurse Practice Act is amended to allow people who have the capacity to know when to take a pill or a shot and how to administer them but do not have the physical ability to do so to direct unlicensed personal assistants to do so instead.  Previously the law had required these tasks to be performed by nurses or certified nursing assistants.  “Self-directed care bill passes legislature”, ENVOY, Summer 1999.

Attorney General withdraws amicus brief

After a concerted effort, DRW and its allies convince Attorney General Chris Gregoire to withdraw Washington’s support for an amicus brief supporting the State of Georgia’s position on the Olmstead case which was before the U.S. Supreme Court.  In a Seattle Times article Dionne Searcey writes:

“Bowing to pressure from the disabled community, state Attorney General Christine Gregoire has withdrawn Washington’s support for a lawsuit, now before the U.S. Supreme Court, that advocates for the disabled fear might undermine the federal law intended to protect them from discrimination.”

“… Georgia contends the act (Americans with Disabilities Act) usurps a state’s authority to decide how to distribute already limited resources to pay for the needs of disabled people.”

“…Disabled community members and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union barraged state offices with letters and phone calls, and then met with Gregoire and Locke to encourage the reversal.  “We came to understand the symbolic importance many disabled people have on this case,” said Narda Pierce, solicitor general for Gregoire’s office.”